When I was a little kid in the late 80s, my dad was on staff at a large church. A large church building, situated in inner city Memphis. It’s glory days long over, the steeple rose above Elvis Presley Blvd, like a weary beacon of hope for a neighborhood in need.
If my dad had extra work to do, we would often pack homework, extra clothes, and lunch and stay the whole day between services on Sundays. On those days, my sisters and I would roam the halls with other staff kids, playing hide and go seek, learning our scales on pianos that sat untouched in random classrooms, and swapping secrets and giggles. I’d often pretend that the church building was my home. A mansion (albeit one with cinder block walls). And I was rich, like Annie after Warbucks adopted her.
But the church was not my home. As much time as I spent there. I did not live there. I lived in a red brick home on Barron Avenue with 20 trees in our front corner lot. That is the home I still stalk every single time I drive through my old city.
In that home, I grew up. In that home, my sisters and I slept, and played, and laughed, and had birthdays, and learned about Jesus. It was also in that home on a hill in the middle of the city, that my grandparents, decades earlier, had learned to love their Lord.
They’d always been church goers. But then they met Herb in the 1970s. Herb was their pastor and like good church members, they had him over for dinner. And the rest is history. Herb discipled them, lived life with them, played basketball with their kids, and taught them how to study the bible. Not just read it, not just look for happy feel goods in it, but study it. Pick it apart. Learn its truth and thereby meet God.
In our home on Barron Avenue.
They then taught their children (my aunts and dad) a new way to love Jesus. A new way to live.
On Barron Avenue, my grandmother taught Bible Studies for women that dug deep into Scripture, void of petty anecdotes, ripe with truth.
In that same home, my own parents taught me to study God’s word, around the kitchen table where we held hands and prayed. There, we studied the book of Daniel with our colored pencils looking for key words, and memorizing bible verses.
On Barron Avenue, we learned to love our neighbors. We watched our parents serve the widowed, the minorities, the lonely, the orphans: day in, day out. On Barron Avenue, our doors were always open.
And on Sundays we went to church. On Sundays we learned about Jesus a little more.
But I’ll tell you what, I met him on Barron Avenue. And that’s where I learned to love him and obey him.
The Church is not our home, friends. At Church, we find communion with other Christ followers. In Church, we worship corporately. In Church, we get a shot of nourishment.
Our communion and worship together is a foretaste of what we will behold in Heaven, when together we worship at the feet of our Creator.
The teaching there is what the Holy Spirit has laid on the hearts of our shepherds and pastors to encourage and convict us through the coming week.
At Church we remember our marching orders found in Matthew 28:19-20…
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Church is not our home, friends. We were never meant to live there and grow comfortable there. The church is our snack, its a little bit of nourishment we need to get us through to Heaven. We need it, (like holy cow, I need my dark chocolate and coffee at 3pm to get me through the afternoon), but it’s not where we live. It is not our everything.
We live on Barron Avenue. In the heart of our cities. Our home is where we do life, where we dig deep, and learn our Bibles in the early morning hours, where we meet the needs around us. Where it’s messy and hard and unpolished.
The front steps of our homes are way more important than the front steps of our churches.